This turned out to be one summer when we all could use a sure thing.
The Blue Man Group is happy to be that thing.
In July, the durable show amped up from nine to a recession-defying 14 shows each week: two per day, seven days per week.
The Venetian balcony appeared to be out of action on a recent night, but the main floor of the 1,760-seat theater was crowded with ticket holders crafting strands of crepe paper into Rambo headbands. Blue Man has been on the Strip since 2000, and people are excited to be part of the community for a show that celebrates, among other things, community.
Most everyone is dialed in to the blue dudes’ aesthetic now, applauding preshow text crawls on an LED screen that single out audience members for feats such as “mapping out the human genome.”
That joke might have been too smart for the room in the early going. But now the whole production, strange as can be in its silent-movie comedy and mad science, comes off like the marshmallows and Cap’n Crunch that get chomped onstage: entertainment comfort food.
The first 45 minutes or so replay the ritual launched by the original Blue Men — Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink — in low-tech, off-Broadway surroundings in 1991. The creators ingeniously made their characters look like B-movie lab clones, and now the Las Vegas show is performed by nine rotating players, and their names aren’t readily volunteered.
They all do the same things, though: Spatter neon-hued paint from drum heads. Catch 18 or so marshmallows by mouth and then spit them up for a modern-art masterpiece. Crunch that Cap’n at sound levels pumped to movie-surround volume.
A Blue Man is both an innocent and a prankster. He’s wide-eyed, but his curiosity can plunge the whole theater into sudden darkness, or jam a camera to your mouth to see what you look like inside.
Midway, the statements about life in the information age get grander, and the audience sees the expanded staging built for this custom theater in late 2005. Segments that were cool enough in the first venue at Luxor are dazzling here: a neon “digital frontier,” or a dynamic explanation of how the eye’s “rods and cones” create animation.
It’s also some of the best listening on the Strip. The Blue Men show off their ability to play “Like A Virgin” on their custom PVC-pipe instruments, augmented at times by the tribal, percussive Spaghetti Western music from a seven-piece band.
A spoof of rock-concert ritual can quickly be confused with the real thing, given the stage design and lighting contributions from Marc Brickman, who created staging for Pink Floyd and other over-the-top spectacles.
Is the show itself now a too-familiar ritual? Lacking visible signs of discontent, the creators have proved themselves extremely cautious about messing with their sure thing.
Granted, there is a very real danger of putting in something that doesn’t match up to what is already there. So far, that’s been avoided in the trio of new-to-Vegas segments added during the ’05 move. (Love those TV-heads!)
The Blue Man devout don’t seem to mind the repetition any more than loyal Catholics do at mass. But you have to wonder about a long-term effect on repeat business for the more casual showgoer. Because the show is presented in segments, it’s not unreasonable to expect an occasional reshuffling along the lines of Penn & Teller, who have added five new bits in recent months.
It’s odd that a show that celebrates creativity sort of froze in that department. The Blue Men created their own monster, making the show so good we want to see more.
But if you never have seen it? Or haven’t seen it at The Venetian? There’s still more than enough imagination to absorb in one sitting, exploding at you like so much Day-Glo paint from a drum head.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at email@example.com or 702-383-0288.REVIEW
what: Blue Man Group
when: 7 and 10 p.m. nightly
where: Blue Man Group Theater at The Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South
tickets: $76.50-$126 (414-7469)